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Increase our faith, O Lord

The writer to the Hebrews writes in the 11th chapter, Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.

Just a later, he writes Without faith it is impossible to please Him (that is, God), for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:1-2, 6)

St. James writes in his epistle, the first chapter, If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways (James 1:5-8).

Not least of all, our Lord Jesus says, Whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die (John 11:26).

To a woman who came to Jesus with her sin and sought His mercy, He says, Your faith has saved you. Go in peace (Luke 7:50).

In today’s text, Jesus says, If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed,you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

Lk17.1-10. Pentecost 19, 2010C.pdf

Hear the Scripture

Moses and the Prophets are a reference to the Old Testament. These testify of Jesus, the very same Jesus made known in the New Testament. Him you are to hear. And Him you are to believe. This the rich man did not do. And this is what the rich man was afraid his brothers would not do. That’s why he wanted Lazarus to go warn his brothers. He wanted to warn them of what was to come if they continued in their unbelief.

But to the rich man did Abraham say, They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them and If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.

Jesus says the same to the Pharisees and Scribes of this day. Jesus did rise from the dead. And if you don’t believe the Scriptures, God’s very Word, so will you remain in that unbelief, for Jesus is risen, Alleluia! And yet you still don’t believe.

But thanks be to God, it is through those same Scriptures that God makes your salvation known—Jesus the Christ. That’s all we have. That’s all we’ve got. But that’s all that we need. Amen.

[sermon]

Lk 16.19-31, Pentecost 18, 2010C.pdf

Preachers and Preaching…

Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead), and all the brethren who are with me

Galatians 1:1-2

What’s so important about Paul, or the disciples, or preachers who claim that they are “called and ordained servants of the Word?”  Why ought we to hear them and their words as they speak God’s Word to us?  Because they speak their own word?  Are we to listen to them simply because they say that we should, on account of their dynamism, their charisma, their “flare” in the pulpit, because they’re easy to listen to?

In Luke 10, our Lord Jesus says, “He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me” (Luke 10:16).  Jesus says these words to His disciples.  As they speak His Word, those who hear are hearing God’s Word and not the Word of man.  Not hearing this word, however, is not only rejecting the Word which Christ sent the preachers to preach, but is, in truth, rejecting Christ.

We, however, don’t like to hear these words of our Lord.  If it was the Lord’s Word that the pastor was speaking, and if the Lord had truly sent him, where is the charisma?  Where is the Spirit empowering the preacher to be such a preacher that all eyes are on him, all ears attentive to every word that he speaks, and every word flowing from his mouth seems ‘heaven sent.’

What we often find seems to be just the opposite!  The pastor lacks charisma.  He’s not a Tony Robbins or another motivational speaker.  The sermon might sound unstructured and sometimes seem to have little point.

In essence, the pastor and the words that he preaches appear so ordinary, so ‘ho-hum,’ that for those seeking something else, they become quite dissatisfied, cast stones at the preacher, and question whether God is really and truly present.

The test of a Godly sent preacher, however, is NOT his dynamism, charisma, delivery, or style of sermon.  Those who look for such things will largely not only be disappointed, but are judging things by their own standards and not according to God’s Word.

The test of a Godly preacher is one who preaches the Word—not just one who says that he (not she) does, but one who actually does, distinguishing and preaching Law and Gospel.  Evaluations of performance in the secular world are one thing.  But evaluating a preacher and His words are to be done differently than in the secular world—not according to what or how we want to hear, but according to what God has already revealed in His Word.  And where a preacher preaches faithfully according to the Word, there is where we ought to be when the Word of God (not man) is preached.  Those who keep themselves away are very close to despising “preaching and God’s Word” (Explanation to the Third Commandment, Luther’s Small Catechism).

Luther

In these first two chapters (Paul) does almost nothing else but sent forth his calling, his ministry, and his Gospel.  He affirms that it was not from men; that he had not received it from men but from the revelation of Jesus Christ; and that if he or an angel from heaven were to bring any gospel other than that which he had preached, he should be accursed. (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p16)

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, give us faithful preachers who preach nothing but your Holy Word.  Grant us discernment that we might resist the temptation to despise our pastor and his word because of how he preaches, and rather, that we hear him as he rightly is—your messenger and servant who proclaims salvation through Christ Jesus alone.  Amen.

Do Muslims, Jews, and Christians worship the same God?

In an article written by Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, associate General Secretary—Faith & Order and Interfaith Relations for National Council of Churches USA (www.ncccusa.org/news/100909tklament.html), with the title “Religious Ignorance, Bigotry and Ill Will: A Lamentation for 9/11,” and written in response “to threats by the pastor a small church in Florida to burn the Qur-an on September 11,” he writes in part that should Rev. Jones burn the stack of Korans, “It would not be simply an attack on a book, albeit a book considered sacred by 1 billion people, but an affront to the very God that is worshiped by those 1 billion people (not to mention the 2 billion Christians, and Jews, too, that worship the same God).”

Thankfully, Rev. Jones of Dove World Outreach Center did not publicly burn the Koran as he said that he would.  All might be said and done over the fiasco caused by such threats, but misconceptions and “religious ignorance” still linger, and will remain among us.

Take for example the belief of Dr. Kireopoulos, as noted above, that Chrisians, Muslims, and Jews all “worship the same God.”  Though it is true that Muslims, Jews, and Christians claim to all worship God, in reality, they do not.  Only one of the three worship the true God—and it is not Islam nor Judaism.

Some might immediately reply, “bigot,” or “ignorant,” or worse.  But a look at the Bible settles the issue.

Islam does not teach that Jesus Christ is God.  Neither does Judaism.  Both do not teach that the Jesus revealed in the Bible, who was crucified on the cross and “rose again from the dead”) is the only Savior of the World.  Judaism would have you look for another Messiah, and Islam, too, would leave you in doubt about God’s (Allah’s) mercy towards you.

Only Christianity teaches confidence in God’s mercy—through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:21-24; Romans 5:1ff; Romans 6:23; Galatians 3:13-14; Ephesians 2:8-9–Romans 14:23; Hebrews 11:6).  Islam and Judaism do not, nor does any other religion.

It was Jesus who said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father except through (by means of) me” (John 14:6).

In another place, Jesus says, “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40)

Just a bit later, Jesus continues, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life (John 6:47).

And concerning the falsity of such statements as Dr. Kireopoulos (and others who share his opinion) that Muslims, Jews, and Christians worship the same God, Jesus Himself to the Jews of His day says, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word.”   In the same chapter, Jesus also says, “Because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me,” and “He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God” (John 8:42, 45, 47).

These words of Jesus highly contrast those who worship the true God from those who do not.  What is said of Jesus and His Word?  What is believed about Jesus and His Word?  What is believed concerning the Bible and the words therein and concerning the Christ revealed in them? Further investigation would demonstrate that the three religions of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity are “miles apart.”

In addition to these words of our Lord (and so many others like them), St. John in his first letter (epistle) wrote, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (1 John 4:1-6).

St. John also wrote these words, “He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:10-13).

If these words from the Bible are not clear enough, I don’t know which are.  Judaism and the Koran do not say these kind of things, nor can they.  A closer look at their respective doctrines (teachings) will reveal, not similarity, but great difference; not how close they are to one another, but how far apart.

And this is as much true for Christianity, Islam, and Judaism as it is for the various Christian denominations.  Not all say the same thing.  And not all are truly Christian.

Though all denominations claim to have and use the same Scripture and Christ, in reality, they do not.  Not all teach the same thing concerning Christ and His Word.

This demonstrates, not unity, but disunity; not sameness, but difference.

Certainty in Christ!

Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead), and all the brethren who are with me

Galatians 1:1-2

Certainty is a blessed thing.  St. John writes, “If our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God” (1 John 3:21).  Such confidence before God you find in Jesus, not in yourself.  Of course, some exist who try to find surety in themselves or in other things other than God’s Son.  And for a time, that surety may remain, but then it is soon taken away in a blink of eye, a fleeting thought, always temporary and not lasting.

Confidence in self or man-made things, teachings, activities, etc. do not give lasting confidence before God.  But the work and word of Christ do give such confidence, such hope—the hope that cannot be ungiven or undone, for Jesus Christ died and is alive forevermore (Revelation 1:18).  The word and Word of Christ cannot be undone.  It is already.  And it’s for you.

Nothing surpasses the certainty of God’s favor in Christ Jesus.

So St. Paul writes, “What things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:7-11).

Such certainty Paul had because of Jesus.  Such certainty also do you have—in Jesus.

And such certainty does the Lord give by means of His  faithfully preached Word, that you also continue in such certainty—that you continue in Christ.  Amen.

Luther

Therefore let the preacher of the Gospel be sure that his calling is from God.  It is perfectly proper that he should follow Paul’s example and exalt this calling of his, so that he may gain credence and authority among the people.  To glory this way is not vain but necessary; for he does not glory in himself but in the king who has sent him and whose authority he seeks to have honored and elevated. (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p16)

Prayer: Dear Lord, bless our pastor with faithfulness to Your Holy Word, and give us ears to hear, that we, too, would have such confidence as You Yourself give in Your Word, and have such certainty of your favor and kindness toward us on account of Jesus Your Son.  Amen.

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